17.9.14

Why Travel and Vacation are Not Synonymous



As a frequent traveler, many people are genuinely interested in hearing my stories and are inspired by the adventures I seek out. On the other hand, there's also a lot of negativity surrounding people who travel often. I regularly receive comments like:

"Wow, it must be nice to never work." [Read: you're so lazy and you just lay on beaches all day and gorge yourself on gelato while the rest of us work 9 to 5]

"So, how do you afford to travel so much?" [Read: do you even work at all? Are you some sort of trust fund kid?]

"When do you plan on settling down?" [Read: when do you plan on getting a real job? because you aren't allowed to travel forever]

(All of which are accompanied with a noticeably disapproving tone) 

Why is it that traveling often inspires such negative feelings in others? Why is being an avid traveler synonymous with being (A) spoiled rich kid who's never worked for anything, (B) a lazy, undecided semi-adult who can't figure out what to do with their life, or (C) someone who is incredibly lucky and won the life lottery and deserves to be envied? 
And then it hit me.
People think this way because they envision travel and vacation as being synonymous. And I don't think they are. 

Hear me out.
There is obvious crossover between travel and vacation. But there are significant differences as well. 


In my mind, taking vacation is an attempt to take a break from everyday life, to relax, de-stress, and chill. 

On the other hand, I see travel as being an attempt to seek out new experiences, to immerse yourself in a new culture and location, and to learn valuable life skills abroad. 

Why is this difference important? Well, think about what you associate with vacationing: resorts, nice hotels, big meals, cocktails every night, lattes every morning, lounging on a beach, going on exciting excursions, translators, tour guides, and the like.
I would be pretty envious of/annoyed with people who did this all the time, too. 

But when I think of travel, I imagine: visiting locals, going on adventures, budgeting, hostels, cultural cuisine, long train rides, heavy backpacks, and long days. 

Obviously, there is a lot in common between the two, and neither is cut-and-dry. Those items listed above might not even be what you connote with 'vacation' and travel'. Regardless, vacations often aren't just peachy, and involve getting lost, getting sick, lots of travel time, going on adventures that are anything-but relaxing, and a slew of other things. Similarly, travel often involves lounging on a beach, staying in nice places, having tour guides, and chilling in a quiet place.

The true difference, I think is that travel is more focused on the process of arriving, while vacation is more focused on the destination. 

So while the difference is mainly in connotation, I think it is significant to note. I love traveling, and I love vacationing, but I don't think the two are synonymous. I find this mainly important because when I say I travel often, I'm not saying I vacation often. I promise; traveling doesn't always feel like a vacation! 

But why does this all matter?

Well, I suppose it doesn't, really. But I don't like criticism (I'm horrible at taking it, even the constructive kind), so when I receive negative judgment about my traveling, I feel the need to defend myself and my hobby. Traveling isn't cheap, it's not necessarily helpful for getting a job, and it can seem like a waste of time. But it's also an incredible experience, influences strong character growth, teaches important life skills, and opens up opportunities all over the world. Traveling is more than just relaxing and getting away from work; it's vital for global awareness and understanding others. 

While vacationing is something we all want, traveling is something we all need. 


What do you think? Do you agree that travel and vacation are not synonymous?


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18 comments:

  1. I definitely agree with this! I've had many classes at college talking about the differences between being a traveler and being a tourist. They are not synonymous. I loved the way you described a vacation and travel are not the same either. You could even take a vacation at home, if you take a break from work! I think my favorite part of what you said is that travel helps you form valuable life skills abroad. I love that! I love how traveling is intentional and helps you grow! Thanks for sharing these thoughts :)

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  2. Thanks for the great input! I'm glad you agree - I'm always trying to convince people to spend time traveling, because I think it is so valuable!

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  3. I definitely think they are different!! I would love to travel!

    xoxo
    Kimberly | Kimberly's Chronicle

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  4. This is a great post. I think people do forget that going someplace new ≠ no responsibilities. Travel isn't some endless party. It's like casual anthropology! But I think, unfortunately, it's been ingrained into our subconscious that anything fun can't be good for you. But learning and improving yourself doesn't have to be a miserable process to be done "right." My favorite part of this post is the last paragraph where you say traveling "can seem like a waste of time," but then you prove the opposite by listing all the positive things you can gain from it! I absolutely agree that everyone needs to travel. We'd all be better for it :)

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  5. Love this post!

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  6. Definitely agree. Now that I'm older, I see where the questions come from though. Traveling to Europe or Asia is so expensive from America, especially when sometimes you only have like 2 weeks of vacation. But it's still frustrating to talk to people who think that traveling is essentially a long vacation where you do nothing. Plenty of long-term travelers are working while traveling, and traveling itself is just a different way to approach life.

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  7. I absolutely love this post. I think all too often people confuse the two. I've been fortunate enough to be able to do a fair amount of traveling, and I can definitely tell you that lugging a backpack, staying in hostels, and riding on trains overnight is hardly a vaction. But I can also tell you I love traveling so much more than I'll ever love vacationing

    Miche from Buttons and Birdcages

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  8. Thank you so much! I agree wholeheartedly. Travel will always be better than vacations, in my mind.

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  9. Oh, for sure. It's definitely important to recognize how expensive it is, because that's a big factor. But just like any expensive hobby (skiing, scuba diving, horse-back riding, etc), travel is valuable to the person doing it, and that's what matters. I would get so frustrated with people who thought I wasn't working during my last year, and was constantly clarifying that I work as a freelance editor, which can be done while abroad. As is the case with other travelers.. particularly travel bloggers!

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  10. I love that term - casual anthropology - so true! Travel is the best way to learn about others and yourself; there is so much to be gleaned from staying in other cultures. Thanks for all your great input! I appreciate the feedback :)

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  11. Thanks so much! Feel free to contact me if you ever want help/advice planning your own trip :)

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  12. Great post!! I think there is this experience of learning and being immersed when you are travelling - while vacationing doesn't really matter, you could be anywhere with sun and a beach and it would be the same exact experience! Also - to me - I always try to remind people that vacation usually means relaxing and doing nothing, while you usually want to put your time to better use when you're travelling (visiting, walking around, etc.) so sometimes you'll come back from a travel as tired as when you left!

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  13. Definitely a thought-provoking post!
    1. Like how you make the distinction as being the focus of the trip: the journey or the destination. Although we work full time and travel only during our (precious few) "vacation" days, we're hardly vacationers. It's all about seeing as many new things, learning new ideas, engaging with new cultures, and widening our horizons in every possible way when we're on the road. There's hardly a relaxing moment for us, but I wouldn't have it any other way!
    2. It's SOOO frustrating that people make those assumptions about travelers! No, I'm neither rich, poor, lucky, or lazy; I CHOOSE to prioritize travel. I CHOOSE not to buy that fancy latte so I can spend my dollars eating authentic food in another country. I CHOOSE to keep my clothes budget to a minimum so I can buy a silk scarf in Prague. I CHOOSE not to go to the movie theater and use Redbox instead so I can see an opera in Paris. Life is what you make of it, and insulting me by attaching all those adjectives to me is quite unfair.
    3. I definitely won't look down on actual vacationers, though, just because their style is different than mine. If you want to go to a country and do nothing but chill on their beach, that's great! It's not for me, but I won't insult vacationers in the same way non-travelers try to direct thinly-veiled snide comments at me.

    Wow, didn't know I had that much frustration pent up in me, haha. Great post, thanks for sharing! You may have just inspired a similar post from me for the future. ;)

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  14. Thanks so much for your input! And I can attest to returning from traveling feeling absolutely exhausted - I think it is the mark of a great trip ;) Glad you enjoyed this article.

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  15. Haha, vent it out, girl! I love hearing your opinion. Let me know when you write your own take on this - I'd love to hear your thoughts in more detail! :)

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  16. Really, really REALLY (did I mention really?) love this post.

    I'm also getting my master's here in jolly ol' England and I get comments on Facebook from people back home daily about how cool my life is (yup, it is) and how lucky I am to be on one big vacation (tires screech).

    I think social media has come into play when it comes to the world of travelers and their experiences, as well as pretty much anyone who has a social media outlet. I could post pictures of my stacks of reading or my pages of dissertation outline or getting ditched at a bus station in the middle of the night, but I'm obviously going to be posting pictures of things like tea and landscapes. More to life than meets the Instagram eye.

    Most of the negative comments I see on popular blogs, travel, beauty, lifestyle, whatever - come off as pure bitterness.

    - "Must be nice to not have a real job while the rest of us work and don't get to take vacations as we please" Translation, "My job has a desk, an HR department, and set hours therefore it is more real than yours. I really don't like working 8-5 in a cubicle so I'm going to take it out on you"

    - "I wish I had enough time and money to go wherever I wanted"

    Translation: "Your life is really easy and was handed to you and I'm too _______ to take those steps for myself"
    (Obviously there are exceptions to this before anyone jumps on me)

    Since you're an art person I'm sure you get similar comments that I do as well (I did design in undergrad) and people would always say things like "Ugh I wish my major was easy like yours and I got to play all day!" *snaps pencil in half*

    I also think some people just generally don't get or are resistant to the fact that the world is changing and not every career means sitting at a desk for hours. A doctor is a real job. A stay at home mom is a real job. Blogging is a real job. Accounting is a real job. Teaching english abroad is a real job. They all have their unique challenges and I wish people would realize that tearing down someone else's life choices will not enhance or fulfill your own.

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